Congratulations! Graduation day arrived and among the tears, you watched your child walk across the stage and receive their diploma. Care and planning went in to having the perfect graduation party. Your family and friends were there celebrating this milestone with you and your graduate.
This summer will be spent with your new graduate preparing for Move-in Day. Stores like Target and The Container Store have college packing lists. There are thousands of Pinterest boards dedicated to dorm rooms and moving to college. Nearly every single list leaves off one crucial item to pack when finally sending your pride and joy off to college: Powers of Attorney.
Your calls go unanswered
Let’s fast forward 6 months. Your son is away at Grand Valley State University, and things are great. You talk to him a couple of times a week and he is loving his newfound freedom and friends. One day, you call and he doesn’t pick up. You can’t reach him. His roommate calls and lets you know that the has been really sick, and they went to the Emergency Room. You are desperate for information, and you call the hospital. The staff refuses to give you any information about the status of your son. What do you do?
This scenario happens more often than you think. You see, our goal to get our children to adulthood, is also the time when you can no longer make health care or financial decisions for your child. This is true even if the child is still on your insurance, you are covering all expenses and you continue to claim the child on your health insurance.
Prepare with Proper Legal Documents
A simple meeting with an attorney to prepare a back to school package with two legal documents, could have made the scary situation described above a bit easier. A Patient Advocate Designation with a health care proxy would allow you to talk to the hospital, receive pertinent medical information and make any decisions for your child should they become incompetent. A Durable Power of Attorney appoints a trusted family member, friend or adviser as an agent, allowing them to act on your behalf, if needed, in a variety of financial and legal matters.
How do you get your children to sign these documents, especially since many are at the age where they think Mom and Dad are clueless about everything? Gentle persuasion often works best. Information is the key for these types of decisions. You could also make it a requirement for payment of tuition or other expenses. Compared to other expenses associated with going back to school, the small investment of $300-400 for these documents could be a very sound investment.